Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Commends Jewish Values, Celebrates “Shared Responsibility to Advance the Cause of Justice”

May 18, 2023

Jewish community members, anti-hunger activists, and interfaith partners joined Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Wednesday evening for the first-ever Jewish American Heritage Month event at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to celebrate Jewish contributions to agriculture and the fight against hunger.

MAZON and USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships hosted the event, along with the Jewish Farmer’s Network, Jewish Federations of North America, Met Council, American Jewish Committee, Adamah, and the Anti-Defamation League.

“We can all be inspired by the foundational Jewish ethics that we cannot fulfill our faith unless we ensure that everyone has enough to eat,” said Josh Protas, MAZON’s Vice President of Public Policy. “The founders of MAZON — Leonard “Leibel” Fein, Theodore Mann, and Irv Cramer, all of blessed memory — understood Jewish social justice values and believed that the Jewish community could leverage its resources to address food insecurity. Nearly 40 years later, we are proud to still be deeply committed to this fight, and there is much work ahead in the fight to end hunger.”

Sec. Vilsack said that “we have a real challenge in this country. Some people believe that we should limit support for people facing hunger — most of whom are working, or they are seniors, or children, or people living with disabilities. Is it just to think that they deserve less support, rather than more support? We all have a responsibility to advance the cause of justice.”

Sec. Vilsack recounted growing up in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh. He said, “I understood the compassion of Jews, and their commitment to justice. It is important that we have this opportunity to celebrate and appreciate the American Jewish community today.”

The inaugural USDA Jewish American Heritage Month celebration also featured a cooking demonstration by chef Michael Solomonov and a musical performance by the band Nefesh Mountain.

View photos from the event here.